Two singularly unique and remarkably important events occurred last week, which, at first glance, may seem to be unrelated but, on closer consideration, are intimately connected.
No one knows for certain where either of these monumental incidents occurred but best guesses put one somewhere in Africa and the other most likely in South America.
In Africa this week, folks who are supposed to know such things say a child was born and became the planet’s 7 billionth person.
And somewhere in South America, perhaps Brazil, some farmer planted the three-billionth acre of genetically modified seed.
The chances are awfully high—and let’s emphasize that word awfully—that the world’s 7 billionth person will grow up in poverty, will be subject to diseases or civil war that most likely will shorten his or her life. And hunger will probably be the child’s constant companion.
That’s what makes the second occurrence a remarkable achievement and what links these two milestones so closely together. We’ve all heard dire predictions that the population may reach a point beyond which we can no longer provide enough food for all. Some of that is likely science fiction. Some, however, consider the reality of population dynamics and the limitations of production agriculture.
Technology, such as transgenic seed, will close that gap and has already improved production efficiency. A recent article in Truth About Trade & Technology reports that farmers across the globe are switching to GMO crops because they can reduce production costs and increase yield. That means more food on less land—more food for those who will soon make up a world population of 9 billion souls.
That’s the good news. Farmers around the world have technology—including GMOs, GPS and other innovations—to feed the planet.
The bad news is that we don’t have to wait until we reach 9 billion people to have hungry people in the world. We have too many now who will die of malnutrition, inadequate or polluted water, and diseases exacerbated by poor nutrition. Roughly 49 percent of the projected growth in population is expected to occur in Africa.
And part of that problem is that some leaders, even those who witness their people suffering from hunger, refuse to allow technology, or even food produced through modern technology, to be used to feed hungry people.
Part of it is nothing but politics—attempts to maintain control over life’s basic needs and thus over those who have no power. Part of it is ignorance and part of it is greed—again the powerful grabbing what they want and leaving the powerless to want.
It is reassuring to know that farmers in Brazil, Argentina, and in the United States, among other agriculturally advanced countries, have the ability to feed the world. And it is reassuring to believe/depend on our ability to use technology to assure that future generations also will be able to feed the world.
We are discouraged, however, that even with the ability, the technology and the resources available to us hunger still stalks much of the developing world. Unless we find a means to distribute what we can grow, malnutrition will continue well into this century.